Name Block

When I had my children, the first one had a name way before he got here; the second one took a little longer.  She was here, in our arms, for a few hours before she had a name.

Now, I’ve given birth to a slew of characters all of whom need names.  Most of them have names, and they seem to work, but naming them all of them is tough, much more difficult than naming my own children.  My main character has gone through three or four names.  Now she’s just ______________, literally.  Somehow, she has rejected all my ideas.

Juliet says, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Essentially, we can call a person or thing by any name, and it won’t change the essence of that person or thing.

I don’t disagree, but names definitely have differing connotations.  For example, to me a “Priscilla” would be, well, prissy, while someone named “Scarlet” would probably be a much more sexual character.

When I named my children, their names “fit” them, but they also “grew” into them.  Now I can’t imagine calling them anything else, well, okay that’s not entirely true (if you’re a parent of teens, you know what I’m saying).  But generally, their names “fit” them.

Now, I’ve created a character who is fully grown and developed.  I have a picture of her in my head; we’ve had conversations.  (That may sound crazy, but if you write, I think you understand what I mean.)  I know her strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, all kinds of interesting details about her life.  But I don’t know her NAME!!!  It’s driving me crazy.

I think the hard part is that her name has to fit her right away; she can’t “grow” into it like a baby does.  I have looked through books about the time period to help create a list of names.  I’ve looked at the etymology and meaning of different names. I’ve written about her using different names, but none seem just right.  And she’s not a newborn staring at me, waiting.  I’m stuck.  I have name block.


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  1. Donna Swanson on May 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Don’t you think you’re being just a little impatient! How long have you known _________? As you spend more time with her, listening to her conversations with others, watching her mature, sharing her life struggles/survivals/joys, I do believe a name will suddenly arise and be perfect! It could be so appropriate that it might even become the title of ______________’s story.

    ______________ was not fortunate enough to be held by your loving arms at birth; thus the naming process must need to be entirely different.

    Give it time!

    • Amy Isaman on May 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      That’s a good point – I am not a patient person! I suppose I’ll just keep waiting for her to formally introduce herself!

  2. Stacie Gardner on May 5, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    And this too shall pass…you will find her name:)

    • Amy Isaman on May 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      Good thing we have friends to struggle through life with!! 🙂

  3. Sharon Rosse on May 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I just heard an interview on NPR this past week or so with an author who never named her main character. She may have written the story in first person – can’t remember. I’ll try to find the interview and send you the link.

    • Amy Isaman on May 9, 2011 at 4:29 am

      That’s interesting! I’d love to read it. Thanks!

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